Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 5, 2005
Philippe defended the faith
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
One day, Oblate Father Victor Philippe was asked what he saw as most important in his ministry in the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. His response was predictable: "I'm a defender of the faith," he said.
That's how the Oblate community will remember him: as a man of prayer and a staunch defender of the faith who would never question the Church and its teachings.
Philippe died Aug. 21 at the Foyer Lacombe retirement home in St. Albert. He was 95.
"I'll remember him as a serious, determined man, not easily swayed, not really able to adapt but very settled in his ways, some of which are useful for a religious who needs discipline for his life," said Father Camille Piche, Oblate provincial administrator. "He was very disciplined and a man of prayer."
Philippe's death as his life was peculiar, his friend Father Jean Denis, said in his eulogy.
"He died Sunday morning in the Foyer Lacombe chapel. He arrived a bit confused, somewhat lost but with the aid of nurses he gained his place and sat down. As the Gospel was proclaimed, he simply died in his chair, without falling."
Philippe's life was also different. He lived long enough to serve 74 years as an Oblate and 70 years as a priest, which he celebrated June 30.
Born in France in 1910, Philippe made his first vows as an Oblate in 1931 and was ordained a priest in 1935. He arrived in Canada in 1936 and soon began serving in the Northwest Territories, where he remained until his retirement at Foyer Grandin in Edmonton in 1986.
For the most part Philippe served in missions at places such as Fort Good Hope, Fort Norman, Arctic River, Aklavik, Fort Simpson, Fort Franklin, Fort Providence. He also spent time in France and in Rome in the late 1940s and was editor of an Oblate magazine in the early 1980s.
Denis also served in the NWT for many years and met Philippe in 1938. They visited each other quite often and became close friends. "He was a lonely man; he wanted to be alone," recalled Denis. "He was not a joker and never said a vulgar word. He was very serious. It was not easy to see what he was thinking."
In the missions where he served, Philippe was the "king" and people did what he said because they respected him, Denis said.
"Everybody knew that Father Victor Philippe was a perfectionist, somewhat pessimistic," the priest further said in his eulogy.
Many years ago Philippe started to write the biography of a brother but he never published because he wasn't satisfied with it, Denis told the WCR. "In all matters, it was never easy to satisfy him completely," he said.
"If one wanted his views, he willingly gave it. If however you did not share his opinion, he would drop the subject. He did not bear grudges and never brought up past issues.
"Actually everyday for him was new, a new day: he had his plans for the day and woe to anyone who would disturb him, even community meetings."
Letter to the Editor - 10/10/05